Dzongkha/Grammar

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Parts of Speech

Noun (མིང་)

Nouns in Dzongkha will use the tag <n>.

Common Noun (མིང་ཙམ་)

  • ཁྱིམ་<n>("house")
  • མེ་ཏོག་<n>("flower")

Gendered Noun (རྟགས་མིང་)

Gendered nouns in Dzongkha have different forms for males and females. These will use the tags <f> and <m> added to denote gender. The default neutral noun is male.

  • གཡག་<n><f> ↔ འབྱི་ ("yak")
  • བ་<n><f> ↔ གླང་ ("ox")

Honorific Noun (ཞེ་སའི་མིང་)

Honorific nouns in Dzongkha are used when the original form is deemed inappropriate in terms of politeness in a certain conversation.

  • ལུས་<n> ↔ སྐུ་ ("body")
  • མགུ་ཏོ་<n> ↔ དབུ་ ("head")

Pronouns (མིང་ཚབ་)

Pronouns in Dzongkha will use the tag <prn>. For honorific pronouns we will use the tag <ph>.

Dzongkha Personal Pronouns
singular plural
first person ང་ nga I ང་བཅས་ ngace we
second person ཁྱོད་ chö you ཁྱོད་ chä you
third person ཁོ་/མོ་ kho/mo he/she ཁོང་ khong they
honorific ནཱ་ he/she/you ནཱ་བུ་ nâ-bu they, you

Verb (བྱ་ཚིག་)

Standard or "lexical" verbs in Dzongkha will use the tag <v>, which is shortened from <vblex>. The bare stem of any verb, by itself, is a steady-state present tense, and also used as an imperative. Strictly speaking, the steady state present is not a present tense but a tenseless verb form which also encompasses present time, but for the purposes of our analysis, we will treat it as present tense. By default, any verb that has no other tense or mode tags will be a steady-state present tense/imperative. For the purposes of our project, we will give all such bare stems the tag <imp>.

There exist some unique verb classes of interest, three of which are listed below.

Modal Verb

Modal verbs in Dzongkha will use the tag <vbmod>.

  • ཚུགས་<vbmod> ("be able to")
  • ཤེས་<vbmod> ("know how to")

"To be" Verb

"To be" verbs in Dzongkha will use the tag <vbser>. There are five "to be" verbs in Dzongkha.

  • ཨིན་<vbser>
  • ཨིན་<vbser><neg> ↔ མེན་
  • ཡོད་<vbser>
  • ཡོད་<vbser><neg> ↔ མེད་
  • འདུག་<vbser>
  • འདུག་<vbser><neg> ↔ མིན་འདུག་
  • སྨོ་<vbser>

Auxiliary Verb

Auxiliary verbs in Dzongkha will use the tag <vaux>.

Adjective (ཁྱད་ཚིག་)

Adjectives in Dzongkha will use the tag <adj>.

Descriptive Adjectives (ངོ་བོའི་ཁྱད་ཚིག།)

  • མེ་ཚ་ཏོག་ཏོ་<n><adj> ("hot fire")
  • ཕོ་སྐྱེས་དོད་རི་རི་<n><adj> ("strong man")

Quantitative Adjectives (གྲངས་ཀྱི་ཁྱད་ཚིག།)

Nouns <n> can be pluralized <pl> with an quantitative adjective suffix «ཆ་ཁྱབ་» or «ཚུ་», which uses the tag <qnt>:

  • ཕམ་<n><adj><qnt> ↔ ཕམ་ཆ་ཁྱབ་ ("parent" becomes "parents")
  • བྱི་ལི་<n><adj><qnt> ↔ བྱི་ལི་ཚུ་ ("cat" becomes "cats")

Note that while «ཚུ» can be independently attached to any kind of noun, «ཆ་ཁྱབ་» is context dependant. It is usually used to pluralize nouns referring to people.

Adverb (དབྱེ་ཚིག་)

Adverbs in Dzongkha will use the tag <adv>.

  • ཁུ་སིམ་སི་<adv>+སྡོད་<v><iv> ("sit silently")
  • ལེགས་ཤོམ་<adv>+སླབ་<v><iv> ("speak nicely")

«སྦེ» is a common linking particle that is used to impose the meaning of adverb (ཁུ་སིམ་སི་ - silently) onto a verb (སྡོད་ - sit).

Postposition

Postpositions in Dzongkha will use the tag <post>.

Interjection

Interjections in Dzongkha would use <ij> tags.

Numeral

There are two number systems generally followed: the decimal system and the vigesimal system.

Numerals in Dzongkha will use the tag <num>.

Determiner

Determiners in Dzongkha will use the tag <det>.

The definite article «དེ» can also be written as «འདི་» in its free form. It functions as a demonstrative pronoun, which can be used by itself as the subject of a sentence.

  • འདི་བྱི་ལི་ཨིན་<prn><dem><n><vbser> ("this is cat")

By contrast, the bound morpheme «དེ» is a definite article suffixed to the noun phrase that it modifies.

  • རོ་ཁྱི་དེ་<n><det> ("the dog")
  • བྱི་ལི་དེ་<n><det> ("the cat")

Alternations

Genitive Suffixes

Genitive suffixes «གྱི་», «ཀྱི་», «གི་» and «འི་» indicate possession or a part-to-whole relationship, similar to English ‘of’. There are several different suffixes to be used based on the ending of the original word.

«གྱི་» is used after words ending in ན་, མ་, ར་ and ལ་.

  • ཁྱིམ་<n><gen> ↔ ཁྱིམ་གྱི་ ("house" becomes "house's")
    • ཁྱིམ་གྱི་ལྡེ་མིག་ house's key = the key to the house

«ཀྱི་» is used after words ending in orthographic ད་, བ་, and ས་.

  • ང་བཅས་<prn><p1><pl><gen> ↔ ང་བཅས་ཀྱི་ ("us" becomes "our")
    • ང་བཅས་ཀྱི་ཁྱིམ་ our house

«གི་» is used after words ending in orthographic ག་ and ང་, and certain words ending in vowels.

  • ཁོང་<prn><p3><pl><gen> ↔ ཁོང་གི་ ("they" becomes "their")
    • ཁོང་གི་རོ་ཁྱི་ their dog
  • ཁོ་<prn><p3><sg><m><gen> ↔ ཁོ་གི་ ("he" becomes "his")
    • ཁོ་གི་མིང་ his name

«འི་» is used after certain words ending in vowels. It is interchangeable with «གི་» when doing so. It is less commonly used.

  • ཨམ་ཚུ་<n><gen> ↔ ཨམ་ཚུའི་ ("wife" becomes "wife's")
    • ཨམ་ཚུའི་ལགཔ་ wife's hand
  • ང་<prn><p1><sg><gen> ↔ ངའི་ ("me" becomes "my")
    • ངའི་བུམོ་ my daughter

«ཡི་» is used after words ending in orthographic འ་.

  • མདའ་<n><gen> ↔ མདའ་ཡི་ ("arrow" becomes "arrow's")
    • མདའ་ཡི་སྒྲོ་ arrow's feather

Locative Suffixes

Locative suffixes «ནང་» and «ཁར་» indicate location or destination, similar to English ‘in’

«ནང་» is the standard locative suffix.

  • ཁྲོམ་<n><loc> ↔ ཁྲོམ་ནང་ ("market" becomes "in the market")
  • ཡིག་ཚང་<n><loc> ↔ ཡིག་ཚང་ནང་ ("office" becomes "in the office")
  • ཁྱིམ་<n><loc> ↔ ཁྱིམ་ནང་ ("house" becomes "in the house")

«ཁར་» occurs in combination with a limited set of nominals.

  • གཡུས་<n><loc> ↔ གཡུས་ཁར་ ("village" becomes "in/to the village")

Ablative Suffix

The ablative suffix «ལས་» indicates the point of origin or departure, similar to English ‘from’.

  • རྒྱ་མཚོ་<n><abl> ↔ རྒྱ་མཚོ་ལས་ ("ocean" becomes "from the ocean")
  • ཁ་རྩ་<n><abl> ↔ ཁ་རྩ་ལས་ ("yesterday" becomes "since (from) yesterday")
  • ང་<prn><p1><sg><abl> ↔ ང་ལས་ ("me" becomes "(from) me")
  • ཧིང་<n><abl> ↔ ཧིང་ལས་ ("heart" becomes "from the heart")

Dative Suffix

The dative suffix «ལུ་» expresses an activity seen as directed at the object, similar to English ‘to’ or ‘for’.

  • ཆ་རོགས་<n><dat> ↔ ཆ་རོགས་ལུ་ ("friend" becomes "to [his] friend")
  • ང་<prn><p1><sg><dat> ↔ ང་ལུ་ ("me" becomes "to me")

It can also indicate location or direction, similar to English ‘at’.

  • ཐིམ་ཕུག་<n><dat> ↔ ཐིམ་ཕུག་ལུ་ ("Thimphu" becomes "at/in Thimphu")

It may also be combined with the locative suffix to indicate the site of an activity or situation.

  • ཡིག་ཚང་<n><loc><dat> ↔ ཡིག་ཚང་ནང་ལུ་ ("office" becomes "at the office")

Past Tense Suffixes (འདས་པ་)

Below are two subcategories of past tense and their respective suffixes in Dzongkha.

The first is the witnessed past, using the tag <ewit>, in which the speaker(or the listener in the case of a question) consciously experienced the event decribed. «ཅི་» and «ཡི་» are used to denote the witnessed past tense.

«ཅི་» is used after words ending in པ་, ན་ and མ་. (Romanized p, n and m)

  • འཐེན་<v><iv><past><ewit> ↔ འཐེན་ཅི་ ("sing" becomes "sang")

«ཡི་» is used after words ending in ང་, ར་, ལ་, ད་, བ་, ས་, ག་, ང་, or a vowel. (Romanized ng or vowel)

  • སྦྱངས་<v><tv><past><ewit> ↔ སྦྱངས་ཡི་ ("learn" becomes "learned")

The second is the inferred past, using the tag <einf>, in which the speaker(or the listener in the case of a question) did not consciously experience the event decribed. «ནུག་» is used to denote the inferred past tense.

  • འཁྱུ་<v><tv><past><einf> ↔ འཁྱུ་ནུག་ ("wash" becomes "washed")
  • འབད་<v><tv><past><einf> ↔ འབད་ནུག་ ("do" becomes "did")

Present Tense Suffixes (ད་ལྟ་བ་)

Below are two subcategories of present tense and their respective suffixes in Dzongkha.

«དོ་» is the present progressive tense, using the tag <prog>, and are usually only used on verbs that denote an activity. It expresses an activity which the subject by their own observation knows to be going on in the present.

  • རྐོ་<v><tv><pres><prog> ↔ རྐོ་དོ་ ("dig" becomes "is digging")
  • འཁྱུ་<v><tv><pres><prog> ↔ འཁྱུ་དོ་ ("wash" becomes "is washing")

«མས་» is the experienced perceptions tense, or the recent past tense, using the tag <rec>. It expresses an activity or phenomenon going on at the moment of reference, taken to be the present, which the speaker has just observed or a feeling or sensation which the speaker has just experienced. It is attached to the inflected stem of the verb instead of the bare stem of the verb, which uses the tag <infl>.

  • ཟ་<v><tv><infl><pres><rec> ↔ ཟཝ་མས་ ("eat" becomes "just eating")
  • བལྟ་<v><tv><infl><pres><rec> ↔ བལྟཝ་མས་ ("look" becomes "just looking")

Future Tense Suffixes (མ་འོངས་པ་)

The future tense in Dzongkha can be formed in several ways, we introduce three here: using the infinitive suffix «ནི་» along with a "to be" verb is one way; using the potential auxiliary «འོང་» or the adhortative auxiliary «གེ» is another. The auxiliaries will be looked at in the auxiliary section.

  • བལྟ་<v><iv><inf> ↔ བལྟ་ནི་ ("look" becomes "to look")
  • འཁྱུ་<v><tv><inf> ↔ འཁྱུ་ནི་ ("wash" becomes "to wash")

Imperative Suffixes (སྐུལ་ཚིག་)

The imperative of a verb is denoted by the suffix «ད་» attached to the bare uninflected stem, it uses the tag <imp>. Additionally, the suffix «ཤིག», using the tag <urg>, can be used to attribute an urging tone to the imperative, on the speaker's behalf.

  • བྲིས་<v><tv><imp><urg> ↔ བྲིས་ཤིག་
  • སྟོན་<v><tv><imp><urg> ↔ སྟོན་ཤིག་
  • འབད་<v><tv><imp> ↔ འབད་ད་
  • ཟ་<v><tv><imp> ↔ ཟ་ད་

Verbal Adjective

The subordinator «མི་» is attached directly to the stem of the verb, and this ending converts the verb into a nominal constituent which can be used either independently as a nominal head or attributively to modify a noun.

  • འབྲི་<v><tv><vadj> ↔ འབྲི་མི་ ("write" becomes "writer" (or one who writes))
  • གཏང་<v><iv><vadj> ↔ གཏང་མི་ ("paint" becomes "painter" (or one who paints))
  • འཐེན་<v><iv><vadj> ↔ འཐེན་མི་ ("sing" becomes "singer" (or one who sings))
  • འཁྱུ་<v><tv><vadj> ↔ འཁྱུ་མི་ ("wash" becomes "washer" (or one who washes))

Auxiliary Verb Suffix

Several auxiliaries see much use in Dzongkha: the potential auxiliary «འོང་», indicating a possibility and similar to English ‘could’ or ‘can’, the adhortative auxiliary «གེ», similar to English ‘let’, and the optative auxiliary «བཅུག་», similar to English ‘may’.

To transform a verb into its adhortative form, using the tag <adh> , the auxiliary «གེ་» is attached directly to the stem of the verb.

  • བཟོ་<v><tv> ↔ བཟོ་ ("make" becomes (let)"make")
  • གེ་<vaux><adh> ↔ གེ་
    • ་ལས་རིམ་བཟོ་གེ། Let's make a plan.
  • སྤུང་<v><tv> ↔ སྤུང་ ("collect" becomes "lets collect")
  • གེ་<vaux><adh> ↔ གེ་
    • རྡོ་ཚུ་སྤུང་གེ། Let's collect stone.

The negative adhortative is formed by attaching the negative auxiliary «བཤོལ་གེ་» to the inflected stem of the verb.

  • འབད་<v><tv><infl> ↔ འབདཝ་ ("do" becomes (let not)"do")
  • གེ་<vaux><neg><adh> ↔ བཤོལ་གེ་
    • དེ་སྦེ་མ་འབད་གེ། Let's not do it like that.

To transform a verb into its optative form, using the tag <opt>, the auxiliary «བཅུག་» is attached to the regular stem of the verb.

  • ཟ་<v><tv> ↔ ཟ་ ("eat" becomes (may)"eat")
  • བཅུག་<vaux><opt> ↔ བཅུག་
    • བྱི་ཙི་དེ་ཚུ་བྱི་ལི་དེ་གིས་ཟ་བཅུག་ཤིག། May the cat eat the mice!

The negative optative is formed by negating the optative auxiliary «བཅུག་» with the prefix «མ་».

  • ཟུང་<v><tv> ↔ ཟུང་ ("catch" becomes (may not)"catch")
  • བཅུག་<vaux><neg><opt> ↔ མ་བཅུག་
    • ཁོང་གིས་ཁྱོད་བཟུང་མ་བཅུག། May they not catch you!

When attaching the auxiliary «འོང་» to the verb stem, using the tag <pot>, there are two possibilities.

It can either attach to the regular stem to express future possibility:

  • དགའ་<v><tv> ↔ དགའ་ ("love" becomes (can)"love")
  • འོང་<vaux><pot> ↔ འོང་

Or it can attach to the inflected stem to express past or present possibility:

  • དགའ་<v><tv><infl> ↔ དགའཝ་ ("love" becomes (could)"love")
  • འོང་<vaux><pot> ↔ འོང་

The negative potential is formed by negating the potential auxiliary «འོང་» with the prefix «མ་».

  • ཟ་<v><tv> ↔ ཟ་ ("eat" becomes (can't)"love")
  • འོང་<vaux><neg><pot> ↔ མ་འོང་

Comparative and Superlative

The comparative prefix «བ་» is used to denote comparison, similar to English ‘than’.

  • འཇའ་<adj><comp> ↔ བ་འཇའ་ ('beautiful' becomes 'more beautiful')
  • རྒས་<adj><comp> ↔ བ་རྒས་ ('old' becomes 'older')

The superlative postposition «ཤོས་» is used to denote the highest degree of comparison.

  • འཇའ་<adj><sup> ↔ འཇའ་ཤོས་ (‘beautiful’ becomes 'most beautiful')
  • རྒས་<adj><sup> ↔ རྒས་ཤོས་ (‘old’ becomes 'oldest')

Negative (དགག་སྒྲ་)

The negative form of verbs is denoted by the prefixes/infixes «མ་» and «མི་». «མི་» is attached to present-tense verbs, while «མ་» is attached to past tense verbs. Additionally, the prefixes, when being attached to a verb that consists of multiple syllables, the prefix attaches to the front of the last syllable, making it essentially an infix in this case.

  • མཐོང་<v><tv><neg><past><einf> ↔ མ་མཐོང་ནུག་ ("did not see")
  • འབད་<v><tv><neg><pres><prog> ↔ མི་འབད་དོ་ ("not doing")
  • ཧ་གོ་<v><tv><neg><imp> ↔ ཧ་མི་གོ་ ("not understand")